Sunday, August 13, 2017

Light at the end of the tunnel

So the Tour is over. Boo hoo (no, seriously).

Being as I have nothing to replace it with (on TV that is) I've started riding more, which is a GOOD thing. You see, every year I seem to have a mid-summer slump, my annual riding doldrums, where for whatever combination of reasons (ie: excuses) my fitness declines to an almost embarrassing point. And every year I have to work REAL HARD to get back to where I was around the end of April. I'm in that part of the year right annual 'comeback'. 

I've upped my riding from 2 or 3 days a week to 5 days a week the last few weeks. Before that (just a few weeks ago) I couldn't BUY a PR on STRAVA. If you don't know what STRAVA is, it's a free online site where you upload your Garmin (or any other brand of GPS ride-track), and in a nutshell the site compares me to me (and also everybody else who's ever ridden any portion of what I just rode). A "PR" is a "Personal Record" (personal best). Any ride is (can be) broken down into "segments". Segments can be made by anybody on Strava. A segment can be anything...a climb, a portion of a climb, a downhill, a flat, an entire ride, you name it, it can be a segment (tho there is a minimum distance, anything too short is too difficult to accurately time using GPS). 

Then when you upload a ride-file, STRAVA compares that ride to it's enormous database of ALL segments it contains, and gives you times for all your segments along with any PR's, and also 2nds or 3rds (your personal 2nd or 3rd best) and also 'cups' which is the overall top 8. This overall part is mostly for the REAL riders...they call it the "leaderboard", which is an all encompassing list of 1st thru whatever for every segment...first place is the highly coveted KOM/QOM for that segment, and then it goes down the individuals placings for every person who's ever ridden that segment (note: you only get your best time in the leaderboard...when you set a PR your old one is deleted and your new time is your spot on the board). 

I actually have TWO comebacks every year...the first is right after THE HOLIDAYS. By the end of January I'm typically deep into my 1st comeback. And by February/March I'm constantly setting PR's on rides. That is a good thing. It means that I'm STILL getting faster (which considering my age is an amazing thing!) For a former pro rider it won't be such a good they'll never again be as fast as they were in their pro career. I think if I were an ex-pro I'd create an alias STRAVA account every few years and start over...considering that as THEY age they will likely just get slower and slower, not faster and faster. But being as I am and always have been a total recreational rider (who got into cycling later in life) I have almost nowhere to go but up (for a little while longer least I HOPE that is the case). 

Another wonderful part of STRAVA is that it's much like Facebook (only better) similar fashion, you can search for people and then 'follow' them, and then they can 'follow' you (for someone to follow me they have to request it, and then I get to approve or people I don't know or like can't just start following me, and vice versa). So in a nutshell, everybody who is following me will see every ride I upload (unless for some reason I make a particular ride 'private'...which I don't know when I'd ever do that, but during every upload I have the option to make that ride 'private').

On a side note: some Pro's upload their rides to STRAVA and allow us mere mortals to follow them...TJ is one, and Nate Brown of Cannondale is another. I'm following both. Every stage of the recent TDF Nate posted his ride! How awesome it was to look at a pro's STRAVA file for all the TDF stages!

So....STRAVA not only allows me to compare ME to ME on every single ride I do, but it also adds PEER PRESSURE into the mix. Everybody I'm friends with (who is "following me") will see all of my rides. If I really stink up the road/trail, they will see that. However if I have a 'smokin hot' day, they will see that too. And another cool thing of STRAVA is that you can then make comments on other peoples rides (such as "WAY TO GO, you were ON FIRE today!") It's always a wonderful feeling to get nice motivational comments from your riding friends! The other thing STRAVA does on that line of thinking is 'kudos'...which is very similar to a 'like' on click a button and that person sees you gave them a 'kudo'. Yeah...kudos' are lame IMO...give me a comment or nothing...kudo's are just lazy. If the ride was plain and no real accomplishments were made, then there's nothing to say. But when I do a LONG HARD RIDE, I'd appreciate MORE than a kudo. SAY SOMETHING! 

I don't look at STRAVA every day (but I should)..but after I do a ride and an upload I then go back thru to see what I've missed, and make appropriate comments to my friends. For instance, after today's ride I went back and saw that Fatty, his wife Lisa and my friend Dave Thompson all posted their Leadville rides (and EVERYBODY knows about Leadville, right?) If you're not really up on Mt biking races, Leadville is the Paris/Roubaix of mt biking races. It's 103 miles with over 10,000 feet of climbing...AT ALTITUDE (the Columbine Mine road goes over 12,000 feet, and the top is the half-way turn-around-point of the ride). 

The 2017 Leadville Trail Invitational went down yesterday (Saturday, Aug 12th). Fatty and his wife Lisa were SMOKIN HOT (as usual)....BOTH coming in with a total elapsed time of UNDER 9 hours! My friend Dave (who has now ridden Leadville about 4 times I think) JUST MISSED the highly coveted "SUB 9 HOUR RIDE"...he got an official time of 9:06. You get a special belt buckle if you make sub-9. Fatty and Lisa (aka Hammer) did it on Singlespeeds...(AGAIN). THAT alone blows my mind...ONE FREAKING GEAR, and they ride it faster than about 95% of the OVER 1200 people out there. Lisa holds the womens SS record. Fatty WON the SS division a few years back. 

Lisa's son and daughter both raced it this year...her son finished (which is an AMAZING accomplishment for ANY cyclist...if you're riding too slow they'll pull you off the trail). I still haven't heard about her daughter...if something happened (crash, whatever) or if for some reason the system just didn't get all her 'stats'...I've called up her bib number a few times and it doesn't say "DNF" (Did Not Finish), has no finishing time, and it's missing the checkpoint info from about mile 60 to the end. So I'm still waiting to hear about her..she's in college now, and routinely rides with the 'boys' at school, continually giving them a real education about getting 'chicked' (what it's called when a guy gets beat by a girl). 

This was Fatty's 21st consecutive year of racing Leadville, and his 20th finish (he crashed out the year his wife Susan died, which had happened about a week before the race). now I seem to forgot where I was going with this. OH..right...MY COMEBACK! (what a side-track that was, eh?) And so...I've started setting PR's again (HOORAY!). Not as many as I would like, but it's a real mental help to start setting SOME. When you do a few rides with ZERO PR's, 2nd or 3rds, that is really a slap in the face. And everybody will see that you sucked...again. So STRAVA is truly a wonderful motivational tool. Sometimes you just don't really feel it, but then you know that if you slack off, everybody will know that. Nothing gets you more motivation to ride than knowing everybody will see it and be able to analyze it and see just how horrible you did. 

So STRAVA is once-again fueling my annual comeback. Riding 5 times a week is paying dividends Sept/Oct I will once-be at the razors-edge of my capabilities, setting lots of PR's on every ride. I'm not quite there yet, but I'm headed there fast. And confidence is like money, it takes money to make money....and it takes confidence to GET confidence. When you're down and can't BUY a PR, one fine day things will align and for one ride (or segment) everything comes together and I suddenly get a PR. Getting a PR out of the blue. When you've been in a drought of PR's, it only takes ONE to give you a well-needed boost of confidence. And then suddenly you get another...and another...which totally amps up your effort fueled by confidence. And before long, you're back on that razor's edge of your fitness. 

And that's a REALLY WONDERFUL place to be. 

I'm not there yet, but I think I can see it from here. There IS light at the end of the tunnel, and it was ME who switched it on. I've found my mojo again. 

Here's to you finding YOUR mojo in whatever it is you do.      


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Post Tour thoughts

And it is done. Boo hoo for SURE! Now what am I going to do with all that time?

Here are some of my final thoughts...I'm sure I'll have plenty more in the coming days. Rae, thanks for mentioning that Uran used to ride w/ completely forgot! Just another one of those REALLY talented guys who FINALLY went off on his own. They still have at least 4 guys who could be contenders, likely more. Only know of them losing Landa for next year...tho it wouldn't bother me a BIT to have them lose a few more and bring Sky down from the rafters and bit closer to the other teams (that don't have Yankees budget). Froome even WITH the super team this year wasn't unbeatable, he looked quite human for a change! And look how close it was! 29 seconds for TWO guys at the end of Stage 19? And just imagine if Porte hadn't crashed out (and taken out Martin), some alternate universe maybe one of those guys won it this year!

But alas, it is what it is and Froome has #4. As to the green jersey and the final sprint today, missing the sprinters Cav, Sagan and Kittel really changed THAT game. Anybody think Mathews would have won those sprints earlier and taken the Green Jersey otherwise? Not so sure the lotto guy (can't even remember his name and I'm feeling too lazy to look it up) would have won today. But hey...they aren't here and his name is forever etched into the record books as winning THE BIGGEST stage of all. Can't take it away from him (well, they CAN if he gives them a reason...they took away a few WINS from other people, some they didn't give to ANYBODY cuz there's like nobody to give them to).

As to the mountains, it was nice to See Barguil in the Polka dots...he really earned that jersey! And winning on Bastille day was HUGE! And then the white jersey to Simon Yates...won by his TWIN brother Adam LAST year? Whoa....that's just CRAZY! I don't have anything to add to that...what are the odds?

And then we have all the crashes. Starting with Stage 1...Valverde. Does anybody else think that Froome MIGHT NOT have won if he was in the race and healthy? He was having a SPECTACULAR year...and w/ Quintana NOT having a great race starting from Stage ONE (pre-tired from the Giro?), obviously V would have been THE MAN to support pretty much from the get-go (he's certainly a better TT'er than Q). Having him AND Porte in the race all the way to Paris? With a HEALTHY Dan Martin? And THEN add in Uran and Bardet?? Oh man, THAT would have been the dream race. All those guys taking turns attacking Sky...I don't think even this super-team could have handled that. NEXT YEAR for SURE!!!!!

OK...I'm tired (gee Matt...why?'ve been staying up LATE watching Tour stages for the last three weeks maybe?) It's time for bed...4am comes EARLY. I can now get my sleep caught up, AND get back to bike riding the end of the Tour ever year I'm always at my worst form for pretty much the entire year...and all my hard/long spring rides and the form I HAD in late April is wiped out from May, June, July's very limited saddle time. So the comeback is on (again). Every year I say to myself "self, let's NOT lose our form this summer...we've worked SO HARD to get it"...and then one excuse after another and suddenly I SUCK in July. But it was fun watching the Tour as always.

OK...NOW I'm off to bed. Goodnight all.

Viva le Tour!